Gilbert Theater presents ‘Godspell’ – A timeless love story for the modern audience

11 godspellKicking off the Gilbert Theater’s 25th season, “Godspell” the musical tells the story of Jesus Christ as portrayed through the New Testament, with a few twists. 

“The (play) is about the book of Matthew and this group of people who use creative ways to tell parable stories,” said Artistic Director Matthew Overturf. The story is told through a collection of diverse tunes, dances and games, with a healthy dose of comedy. Despite its playful tone, the life of Christ is por­trayed in a reverent manner. 

“It may come off as satirical, but it’s not intended to be,” said Overturf. “The play … really does take a respectful take on the stories, but it is always done in a creative way, with a lot of creative, funny ways of telling the stories.” 

The lighthearted nature of “Godspell” emphasizes the human nature of biblical characters. “This is a show that talks about a group of people that … learned how to become a community. They learned how to love each other,” said Overturf. 

Overturf spoke of the jovial relationship portrayed between Christ and his followers: “He’s very fun … not a stoic Jesus.” More than that, the production recognizes love and grace, even in its darker themes. Overturf, who plays both Judas and John the Baptist in the production, commented on the relationship between Jesus and Judas: “Everyone thinks Judas was the great villain of history. For me, it’s finding the heart of who he is and trying to understand what his motivation might’ve been.” 

One of the most powerful aspects of the produc­tion is the way it will immediately draw viewers into the story, according to Overturf. Most of the show’s actors use their real names dur­ing the performance to encourage a real-life connection to the audience. Overturf commented on this practice: “It bridges the gap between old and new – we can still learn something from these stories.” 

Overturf emphasized the accessibility of the play, saying that anyone can relate to the plot and the characters and find some truth in the story. “We live in a world where love isn’t necessarily number one on people’s mind, and this is a show that asks how can we help people try to love other people a little better.” 

With this kind of love, “you can legiti­mately change the world a little bit,” added Overturf. The cast look forward to inviting the audience into their own lov­ing community. 

“Godspell” runs Sept. 21-Oct. 7. Tickets are $16. For more information or to order tickets, email the Gilbert Theater at, call 910-678-7186, or order online at

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‘Music City’ world premiere at Cape Fear Regional Theatre

09 music citySept. 19 through Oct. 7, Cape Fear Regional Theatre debuts the world premiere of “Music City.” CFRT has enlisted the talents of a dazzling cast and crew, whose passion for the project brings the story to life. 

“Music City,” written by Peter Zinn, is an authentic imagining of the perseverance it takes to fulfill one’s destiny. Featuring five No. 1 Country Billboard hits written by J.T. Harding, the show intimately investigates the journeys of three songwriters as they navigate the difficult choices one makes while pursuing success. 

CFRT Artistic Director Mary Kate Burke directs the musical story of harsh realities and dreams realized. “The American dream is that, if I work hard, I can improve my circumstances,” Burke said, regarding the struggles of the main characters and the relevance of the show. Burke continued, “We want people to know it’s of the now; it’s set in 2000, but it feels very palpable to the issues of today.” 

Much of the story’s action is set in the Wicked Tickle, a chaotic country bar where our leads find each other. Choreographer Tyce Diorio said he strove to emphasize the integrity of storytelling with authenticity. His effort to make the story tangible by finding the story’s heartbeat created an atmosphere of honesty that reverberates throughout the entire program. Diorio is an American dancer and choreographer best known for his work on the hit television show “So You Think You Can Dance.” 

To further enhance the experience of attendees, CFRT has removed the theater’s first several rows of seats, put tables, chairs and sofas in their stead and will be having live music before the show. 

“When you walk into the theater, we want you to have an experience,” Burke said. “It’s like you’re going to be entering this little snow globe of Nashville… and you’re going to be able to come into the theater an hour before showtime and get a drink from the bar onstage.” 

It’s details like these that create “Music City’s” cohesive vision that has come to fruition right here in Fayetteville. Jonathan Judge-Russo, who plays Drew, one of the lead musicians, shared, “The most humbling thing about being ... in Fayetteville is (that) we are in a town … devoted to service. This is a place where people … serve a higher purpose. They’re doing something profoundly important and maybe, just for a couple hours, we get to serve them.” 

“Music City” encourages audience members not to get in their own way and to be bold. Kaylyn Marie Scardefield, who plays a young singer named 23, said of her character, “This character is calling me to be someone I want to be – someone who is more courageous. … I feel like I’ve been given a huge invitation to be a more courageous extension of myself.” 

The brilliant cast and crew invite Fayetteville to join them in exploring what it means to be brave. “Music City” opens for previews Sept. 19-Sept. 21 at $17 a ticket and will continue to run through Oct. 7, with tickets ranging from $25-$32. To learn more, visit or call 910-323-4233. 

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The resolve of abstraction: A smoldering ember

13Tara Cronin Day Break ArchivalDwight Smith, project director at Ellington-White Contemporary Gallery, had a specific reason to include a national abstract competition in the gallery’s 2018 exhibition year. Smith and Executive Director Calvin Mims both wanted to respond to a frequent question in the community: If representational artists paint in a way that depicts what is clearly identifiable, then what are abstract artists doing?

Two hundred fifty artists across the country answered the complex question by participating in an exhibition titled “Immersed in Abstraction: A National Juried Competition.” Of the 250 artists who entered the competition, 25 were selected to send original works for the gallery show at Ellington-White, and fifty-six artists are being represented in an online exhibition.

Artist Randy Akens was the final juror of a two-tiered jurying process. From Savannah, Georgia, Akens jurors’ statement is short: “The artists in ‘Immersed in Abstraction’ all provide quality of expression and reflect significant points of view nationwide.”

I think it’s important to expound on some central points about abstraction for anyone who would like to broaden their understanding about the abstract style.

The range of styles in “Immersed in Abstraction” confirms why there are countless texts published that examine the ideas or intent of abstract art. Of the many relevant approaches, I selected several significant and foundational modern/contemporary statements about the style – explanations that could alter one’s perception about a non-representational style when visiting any gallery.

As long ago as 1943, Ad Reinhardt’s statement about abstract works created clarity for many when he stated, “It is more difficult to write or talk about abstract art than any other painting because the content is not in a subject matter or story, but in the actual painting activity.”

The above statement is illustrated in all of the paintings in “Immersed in Abstraction.” For example, when looking at the brushy painted marks of Jean Banas’ “Misplaced Memories,” we know there are two figures in the picture plane – yet the act of painting becomes more important than the subject. The artist’s painting method becomes integral to the meaning of the work itself and the viewer’s interpretation.

Another important and well-known statement about abstract works was made by Douglas Huebler in 1968. Huebler, defending his position against being a representational artist, said, “The world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more. I prefer instead to simply state the existence of things in terms of time and/or place.” Huebler is not referencing the physical “objecthood” of an art object but is challenging the idea of why to reproduce or reference an illusion of an object or objects in a work of art.

When considering Huebler’s stance, I immediately think of the Hawaii-based artist Tara Cronin, whose work was accepted into the physical exhibition of “Immersed in Abstraction.” Hoping to “promote the idea of science and art as being symbiotic,” Cronin’s work is a pigment print with chlorophyll, pen, pencil and blood. Titled “Daybreak Archival,” something hair-like seems to float amidst a seemingly unknown language. The image conjures something that feels ancient with the universally personal.

When thinking about Cronin’s work, it’s easy to reflect back to Reinhardt’s statement about the importance of the actual activity of the making.

Cronin, an accomplished artist and someone who holds several co-patents with her partner, scientist Ed Chen, explores “the interface between the material and the individual by making photographically- based work involving images or prints combined with materials such as reconstituted hemoglobin and chlorophyllin as well as with dust and with liquid metals.” In lieu of practicing chiaroscuro to create the illusion of a three-dimensional object on a flat surface, Cronin shares her investigation of the expressive quality of materials.

Ellington-White Contemporary Gallery is pleased with the response of artists and the variety of mediums and styles in the exhibit. Ranging from professional and collectable works of art to works by emerging artists, the exhibit includes a range of media – monoprints, intaglio prints, paintings, mixed media, photographs and computer graphics. From the figurative to non-objective, visitors to the gallery will see painterly expressionism as well as hard-edged minimalism, social commentary and personal investigative approaches to art-making, science and politics.

The politics of M. Wilk’s mixed media work titled “Control Series: Regulation” investigates today’s culture. By combining a mix of stenciled flat people shapes floating above collaged papers, the painterly mark-making exudes an industrial essence. The artist described the “Control Series” as “a dialogue regarding our society and culture in today’s age. The works touch on surveillance regarding the digital landscape we live in, the Elite, consumerism and money.”

Here is one last statement about the possibilities of abstract art before this article comes to an end. In 2010, Bob Nickas, in his book titled “Painting Abstraction: New Elements in Abstract Painting,” said, “Maybe abstract painting has become a form of imaginative fiction. Here, the painter of abstract life reflects on the world without submission to its direct rendering and counters every other representation ... the painter of abstract life slows down perception ... Abstract painting can be its own subject, its own world, one that reveals itself slowly over time and may not look exactly the same to us from one day to the next.”

And so it is with all of the works in the exhibit. Visitors will need to attend the exhibit several times to see how the works can change from one day to another.

All of the above are reasons to visit “Immersed in Abstraction: A National Juried Competition.” Thinking about new ways of seeing can influence one’s appreciation of works of art in stimulating ways and can even alter one’s own creative approach.

The show will remain up until Sept. 22. Ellington-White Contemporary Gallery is located at 113 Gillespie St. Gallery hours are Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. View the online exhibition at For information on the exhibit or on a Sept. 18 Abstract Monoprint Workshop, call 910-483-1388.

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Givens opens season with ‘The Three Musketeers’

10 Three MusketeersGivens Performing Arts Center will open its 2018-19 season with “The Three Musketeers” Thursday, Sept. 20, and Friday, Sept. 21, at 8 p.m. The show is sponsored in part by Wesley Pines Retirement Center of Lumberton and is directed by Jonathan Drahos, director of theater at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. 

“The Three Musketeers” follows D’Artagnan, who travels to Paris in hopes of becoming a musketeer, one of the French king’s elite bodyguards. He discovers the corps have been disbanded by conniving Cardinal Richelieu, who secretly hopes to seize the throne. 

Athos, Porthos and Aramis continue to protect their king and refuse to lay down their weapons. D’Artagnan joins the rogues to expose Richelieu’s plot against the crown. 

The play will feature sword fights, romance, dancing, rolling-in-the-aisles comedy and high adventure. 

“This production has an epic spirit – sword fights, romance, dancing, rolling-in-the-isles comedy and high adventure!” said Drahos. “It’s going to be a fun night in a great space.”

The second performance of GPAC’s season, “Jessica Jane & Niels Duinker’s Magic Show,” is Friday, Sept. 28, at 8 p.m. The show is sponsored in part by the Pembroke Activity Council, a division of Campus Engagement and Leadership, and is part of UNC Pembroke’s Family Weekend Events. The duo entertains audiences with juggling acts, grand illusions, dangerous escapes and more. 

“We are excited to present a magic show with such high caliber performers as Jessica and Niels,” said James Bass, director of GPAC. “If you like high-energy shows that keep you on the edge of your seat, you’ll love this show.”

Jessica was born into and grew up in the world of magic. Her mother was a magician’s assistant for several illusionists, and her father designed magic tricks. At the age of 12, Jessica was being cut in half as a stage assistant. Her first real job was as a roving magician, and she has performed in Europe and around America. She has appeared on Penn & Teller’s “Fool Us” TV show. She currently lives in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, where she regularly performs “Jessica Jane’s Magic, Comedy and Variety Hour.” 

Niels Duinker holds seven Guinness World Records for juggling. He is a three-time winner of the International Magician’s Society Award, a three-time National Juggling Champion in The Netherlands and a Gold Medal Winner of the 2009 Taiwan Circus Festival. He has worked all over Europe and Asia. He was voted Best Corporate Entertainer 2018 by Corporate Vision magazine and has appeared at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas, Harrah’s Hotels and Casinos and on several cruise ships. 

GPAC is located at 1 University Dr. on the UNCP campus. Tickets for “The Three Musketeers” cost $21 and $26 for adults and $5 for children and students. 

Tickets for the magic show cost $16 for adults and $5 for children and students. 

For more information, call 910-521-6361. 

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FSYO: Raising Fayetteville’s next generation of professional musicians

01coverUAC0081518001Dr. Larry Wells, director and conductor of the Fayetteville Symphony Youth Orchestra, thinks laughter is essential to the learning process, but he’s not here to play. He’s here to train Fayetteville’s young musicians to operate at a professional level and to help build Fayetteville into a city where the best and brightest  want to stay.

“It bothers me that ... our best young people want to leave,” he said. “That doesn’t bode well for our future if that continues. In my little way, because I just have my little slice of this pie, I want to have something that young people want to stay and do.”

Wells plays trumpet with the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra and the Carolina Philharmonic and is a professor and director at Methodist University. He holds a Master of Science in teaching music from Portland State University (1996) and a Doctor of Musical Arts in trumpet performance/wind conducting from the University of North Texas (2006).

Though his current resume is impressive, Wells said growing up there was a lack of programs for young musicians in his home-state, Washington, and that he didn’t have access to professional training until college. This is a situation he never wants to happen to Fayetteville’s young talent.

“There are certain rules in the professional world that young people won’t have been exposed to unless they’re in a program like (the FSYO); even how you practice and go about your day, how you dress,” Wells said. “The youth symphony is an opportunity for kids to study.”

The FSYO, which was formed in 2014, is open to students ages 13-21 in public school, private school or homeschool. It includes Cumberland County students as well as students from many other counties.

Wells said the FSYO is not meant to compete with high school music programs, but rather to complement those programs for students who want to go further. For this reason, the FSYO meets on Sundays; Saturdays would force many students to choose between marching band and the youth symphony.

“We’re all on the same team,” he said. “The high school programs do a great job for what they do. (The FSYO) can be a conduit for the next step. ... There are nitty gritty things like (transposition) that maybe don’t really apply on a marching band field but absolutely apply in a concert hall on an audition.”

Every week, FSYO students rehearse music for one of three or more concerts they will perform over the course of the year, but there’s also a lot of teaching going on.

Wells gives them a basic lesson in conducting so they can follow his movements – “No 1, 2, 3, 4 here,” he said. If the students run into a difficult rhythm they don’t know how to play, Wells pauses rehearsal and break the rhythm down on the whiteboard. When players need to transpose their sheet music, they learn how to do that, too.

If the flutes are having trouble, Wells calls in FSO flute section leader Sarah Busman to work with them in a separate mini-session.

Students’ direct access to their professional counterparts in the FSO is one of the strongest elements of the program, Wells said. “I’ve got a doctorate in trumpet, but I can’t play tuba well enough to teach my kid how it should sound. Here, they’ve all got access to all of it.

“We talk a lot about intonation, music theory … Whatever the day, it’s like ok, this is what’s happening, let’s talk about (it) from a professional perspective.”

The students’ hard work results in three or more concerts over the course of one season, culminating in the “side-by-side” concert, in which students get to play onstage with the FSO. The FSO is led by Music Director and Conductor Stefan Sanders, who has conducted for the New York Philharmonic among many other orchestras.

Another of the FSYO’s strengths is a structure that allows for both specialization and inclusion. This structure is comprised of a Concert Band (woodwinds, brass and percussion) led by Wells, a String Orchestra (violin, viola, cello and bass) led by FSO violinist Monica Thiriot, and a Full Orchestra led by Wells. Wells said having these separate groups creates two advantages.

First, he said, separating Concert Band and String Orchestra allows students in those groups to play music that’s challenging for their instruments. Sometimes, he said, music that’s challenging for strings can be painfully easy for woodwinds, and vice versa. It also allows for more specialized instruction.

Second, the structure allows Wells to say yes to every student who wants to learn. No student who auditions is ever turned away from participating in Concert Band or String Orchestra. However, the audition does determine students’ seating, and to play in the Full Orchestra, they have to be at the top of their section.

“(This structure) gives me flexibility to meet the needs of all the kids, and it also gives a spot for people where I don’t have to say no,” Wells said. “You never know when the light’s gonna come on for a young person. But if you don’t have them in your group, then you’ll never know if the light (could) come on. He added that having students with a range of skill levels allows for less experienced players to learn from their seniors and then pay it forward.

String coach Thiriot, who also leads string programs for K-second-graders and ages 13 and under, said her favorite thing about working with the students is giving them music they don’t ever think they could play – and getting them to a place where they realize they can.

Wells added that the FSYO’s “never say no” policy coupled with the fact the FSYO gets students from school systems as far as an hour away creates a diverse body. Students get to play and connect with other musicians their age they might otherwise never have met.

The FSYO also holds extra workshops and social events outside of its weekly rehearsals. These include free workshops for Cumberland County students that focus on preparing students for things like all-district auditions and college auditions, as well as an end-ofthe- year party at Wells’ house and possible field trips.

All in all, it’s a program that lets those who are willing to work for it shine, Wells said.

“Good enough isn’t good enough for me. … I jokingly tell my students that’s why I’m bald. Because my hair will never look good. So it’s gone. They laugh, but I get my point across. If they’re laughing, then they’re learning.

“If mediocre is the best you can do, then don’t. Either work hard enough to not be mediocre, or find something you’re good at. Way too many people shoot low; I don’t want Fayetteville musically to shoot low.”

The thing is, Wells said, being serious about music is actually really fun. “It’s fun to learn, and it’s fun to be good,” he said. “It’s fun to not suck. Young people get that. And again, they laugh, but they remember.”

The FSYO meets on Sundays; Concert Band and String Orchestra separately from 4-4:50 p.m., and Full Orchestra from 5-6 p.m. Registration for the 2018-19 FSYO season must be completed by Aug. 31. When students register, they also sign up for an audition time. Learn more at View the FSO’s upcoming season, which includes dates for the FSYO’s concerts, by clicking on “Concerts and Tickets” and “2018-2019 Concerts.”

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